American Sniper, the Clint Eastwood biography of late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, roused a lot of attention among Iraqi audiences, despite the subject matter of US-occupied Iraq. According to the New York Post, the film drew Iraqi cinema patrons in a big way:
Moviegoers in Baghdad were on the edge of their seats while watching “American Sniper” — as the controversial war drama thrilled audiences in Iraq, where much of the film is set.
“When the sniper was hesitating to shoot [the child holding the RPG in the film’s first scene], everyone was yelling, ‘Just shoot him!’” Gaith Mohammed told the Global Post, adding that his theater was packed.
“Some people watching were just concentrating, but others were screaming, ‘F-ck, shoot him! He has an IED, don’t wait for permission!!’”
Since the movie’s release, many people have objected to the film’s portrayal of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle — a man who described Iraqis as “savages” in his memoir.
But despite the debatable subject matter, audiences turned out in droves at the upscale Mansour Mall for one short week to see the Clint Eastwood biopic, the Global Post reported Thursday.
Management eventually put their foot down, though, and ended showings “because the hero of this film boasts of killing more than 160 Muslims,” according to a theater employee.
The film does not portray Kyle as an adversary to Iraqis as a whole; Bradley Cooper’s Kyle is generally respectful and restrained with the Iraqis he interacts with off the battlefield, in the film. It’s therefore not entirely surprising to me that Iraqi audiences – who presumably like a good war film as much as anyone else – would show up for a film about a cattle-wrangling Texas ace sniper.
I saw the film in the downtime before the SHOT Show. In my opinion, as a film, it is neither great nor terrible. Like most Eastwood films, it portrays different cultures mixing with each other in a way that is realistic enough to be compelling, but also confined to a certain perspective. Like a lot of war films, it is episodic in nature, and there are some episodes within it that are really great.
Despite what some might think about the film, the NY Post article does contain one quote I found very encouraging:
I love watching war movies because especially now they give me the strength to face ISIS,” Mohammed said.
Carry on, Baghdad.